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THE care and custody of the mentally ill has customarily been considered
a state and local rather than a federal function. Certainly the major burden
of performing this task of public assistance and police protection is carried
by local government agencies, to the extent that it does not still rest
on the shoulders of families and relatives. It is also customarily believed
that the mentally ill or defective offender is infrequently encountered in
federal law enforcement. For there have been fewer homicide trials in
federal courts than in state courts, and it is in such cases that the defense
of insanity is most often raised. Homicide apart, a conception of federal
crime as typified by larger scale depredations and more complex schemes
than the delinquencies popularly associated with mental cases has also
been rather widespread and misleading. Although these two notions
regarding the incidence of mental cases in the federal penal process once
had a factual basis, they are increasingly invalid, both because of the progressive expansion of federal criminal legislation and the fact that we
have only recently begun to learn to recognize mental illness readily.

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mental illness, state, federal, criminal law